Ikea's traffic chaos

18 July 2016 | Lloyd Hughes

A brand new store opening is usually an easy PR win. Local journalists? Come on down! Local bloggers? Come on down! Local dignitary? Come on down! Even small store openings tend to be able to tick at least one of these boxes off the list. Bigger ones have it much easier.

Ikea is a big name and a new store is a big deal. Having not opened a new store in the UK in 7 years, the Swedish giant opened one in Reading at the weekend. There’d have been local and regional excitement building for some time with relatively minimal publicity effort required.

I bet the marketing team at Ikea would like to swap the minimal for zero now, though.

The brand had an absolute PR disaster at the weekend when shoppers took up to 4 hours to get out of the car park. Yes, that’s FOUR hours. To get out. Madness.

Who'd have thought flatpack furniture could cause such chaos? Actually, having put it together many a time...that's fairly easy to understand.

Hilariously the store management claimed to have a ‘traffic management plan’ in place that they would ‘carry on using’ whilst investigating the reasons behind it. At least that was the line they gave to the dozens of news outlets that reported the problems. No doubt a 7-year interval between store openings left them a little rusty on what to do.

Admittedly some social media users were praising the staff trying to sort out the situation but they were facing a losing battle, with many having to hand out water to those stuck in their vehicles. I’m cranky in a traffic jam at the best of times, so I expect those workers were having a very stressful day. 

Despite having spent £4m on new junctions and road widening ahead of the opening, things clearly didn’t go to plan. Having said that though, the Highways Agency charged Evesham Football Club about £1m just to add a new exit to an existing roundabout, so I expect £4m didn’t get them very far with its often ludicrous costings.

I haven’t been to an Ikea in years (quite possibly since childhood), with my last memory being of manic crowds and a bewilderingly large shop that I couldn’t wait to get out of. I often seem to be on the verge of going but then opt for a closer Homebase or just go online instead. This kind of well publicised bedlam just reinforces my view.